“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct”
We are all tempted to fall for the comparison trap partly because we want to know where we are at and if we are measuring up. The problem with this is not only is this measurement very subjective because it’s based on our interpretation of success and our perception which is often faulty but what are we measuring up to? When we engage in the comparison trap, we end up trying to measure up to others. This leads to competing with others instead of complementing and coming alongside them. It traps us into a life of performance-based living where we waste our lives running on the never-ending treadmill of pride, guilt and exhaustion. It’s no wonder that Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” How many of us are living joyless lives because we are focused on comparison instead of Christ. In John 16:22 Jesus gave us an amazing promised, “No one will take your joy from you,” But what did He mean by that? Because I know there have been times when I find myself pursuing joy because I have lost it. I have to confess that this seeming contradiction used to confuse me; “If no one can take my joy, then why is my joy missing?” I repeated the contradiction over and over again in my mind. “No one can take your joy…I lost my joy…no one can take your joy…I lost my joy… oh! I lost my joy!” that is when the light bulb finally turned on. No one took my joy, I simply stopped being intentional about experiencing it! Joy is a little bit like a sweater that gets buried in the back of the closet from not being worn. It may have been forgotten about, but it remains in the closet waiting to be pulled out and put on. We didn’t lose it we just didn’t put it on! There are 25 different Hebrew words and 10 Greek words that make up the over 150 references to joy in the Bible.Looking at these words for joy we see two main definitions emerge. The first is gladness in the Lord. If asked to define joy, most people would give a word similar to gladness, such as happiness, contentment, or delight. While these words define the emotion of joy, none reflect the source of the emotion. You see while happiness is based on your happenings, joy is based on Jesus. That is why according to James 1:2 we are to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Finding joy in trials and suffering is only possible because joy comes from gladness in the Lord alone. While happiness is tied to our circumstances joy is tied to Christ. Are you Christ or circumstance focused? The second definition is rejoicing which describes the outward expression of our internal joy. In the Bible, rejoicing takes the form of leaping, shouting, singing, playing music and dancing. The Psalms in particular describe these forms of rejoicing.
“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:1-3
“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” Psalm 47:1
Notice how the two main definitions of biblical joy are connected; rejoicing flows out of gladness in the Lord and our gladness in the Lord increases the more we rejoice. Because joy means gladness in the Lord losing our joy suggests we shifted our focus from God’s goodness to our own troubles, unhappiness, or pain. That’s why refocusing on God is the first step to rediscovering our joy. Take some time to meditate on God and His goodness and ask Him to reignite your gladness in the Savior instead of your situation.